He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
I heard that bit of verse many years ago, though I didn’t know the author’s name (Edwin Markham) until I Googled it today. It was brought to mind anew as I read the musings of Rep. Cynthia Chase (D-Keene) about Free Staters, as published in Blue Hampshire. Forgive me for being about the fiftieth blogger to hold forth on her straightforward rant. I’m less indignant than amused.
After calling libertarian Free Staters “the single biggest threat the state is facing today,” she recommends “[w]hat we can do is to make the environment here [in NH] so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave.” With no apparent irony, she goes on to write “Cheshire County is a welcoming community but not to those whose stated goal is to move in enough ideologues to steal our state, and our way of life.”
“Our state.” I’ve been here more than thirty years. Am I part of “our”? How long after a Free Stater moves here can she be part of “our”? (Maybe as long as a UNH student from another state must live here before he can vote.) “Ideologues.” At what point do beliefs make one an ideologue? When they are linked with decisive action? Or simply when those beliefs don’t square with those of Rep. Chase?
Rep. Chase reminds me of the Nashua residents whose objections to a certain “kind of people” temporarily stymied the relocation of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. NIMBYism is alive and well in our fair state.
One of our nation’s foundational documents asserts rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I am among those who believe that Jefferson’s mention of Life before Liberty was not random or incidental, since there’s not much point to a government’s defense of liberty if that government does not first recognize a right to life for those who seek to enjoy liberty. Even Free Staters can agree with me on that much, if their statement of intent is any guide. Anyone who wants to squelch the Free State Project therefore rates my attention, since I have to wonder when the squelching is going to shift to me.
I hereby draw a circle to take in Rep. Chase. It’s actually shaped like New Hampshire. There’s nothing sentimental about it (with apologies to Mr. Markham). She’s included whether she wants to be there or not. We both love our state. We are both fully invested in its future. I can’t get rid of her. She can’t get rid of me. She is no more, or less, threatened by my pro-life advocacy than I am threatened by her rejection of a fetal homicide bill or her rejection of informed consent for women seeking abortions. Neither one of us is going to back off or shut up, partly out of commitment to our beliefs and partly, I’m sure, out of sheer cussedness.
Rep. Chase closed her post with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: it is true that the law can’t change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. My own favorite among Dr. King’s work is his letter from Birmingham jail, in which he wrote Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
In other words, Rep. Chase, welcome to OUR world.